You might think that playing videogames with your kids is easy and carefree, but you’d be wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching and helping my daughter play computer, Xbox, PlayStation, and even Wii games, but there are times when it just makes me want to pull my hair out.
For example, Reese and I were playing Toki Tori 2+ the other day, which if you’ve never played it, is a fun, cute platformer designed for adults and kids alike. It’s a great game for her because the character is cute and funny, and the controls are simple. But the minute anything gets a little complicated or tricky, or just isn’t quite as easy as she thinks it should be, she gives up. “Dad, can you do it for me?”
Now let me be clear, it’s not that I mind helping her play the game, and I certainly understand that games can be tough for a five-year-old and she may need help. But there are times when she gives up way too easily. And as a father, I try to turn things like this into opportunities for growth. So I make her try again.
“Daddy I can’t get it,” she tells me.
“It’s okay, just try it again,” I tell her. I don’t want to just do things for her when they get tough, or she’ll never learn how to work through tricky situations. Now, I’m not trying to say that playing a videogame is the same as dealing with a difficult situation in real life, but as a kid, these things all add up. If I play the entire game of Toki Tori 2+ while she watches, she’ll never learn to try things a different way when times get tough. She’ll never learn that she has it within her to overcome any obstacle, and like the age-old adage says, she’ll never learn that she can do anything if she just sets her mind to it.
So I made her try it again. She kind of whined and gave me this, “You’re so mean” attitude, which I shrugged off because I’m learning to get used to it. But fortunately, she gave it another shot and advanced past the tricky spot and on to the next level. I told her how proud of her I was. I told her that this proves that she can do anything she wants with enough practice, determination, and willingness to put in the work. I told her she was getting to be a big girl, and was going to be a great gamer someday.
So we started the next level and the same thing happened, she got stuck. But apparently, I am only filled with enough “dad lessons” for one a night, because without much whining (curse those puppy dog eyes!) she convinced me to play through the level for her. And it was pretty fun…
So maybe she didn’t learn anything that night, but hey, I tried. And I think that might be what it really boils down to. I’m going to mess up as a parent, and I’m going to make some really bad decisions. Heck, Reese may as well accept the fact now that she’s pretty much screwed, because there’s no way she gets out of this thing without me “ruining her life” or being a constant embarrassment. I don’t know if she knows this yet, but as much as I love her, and as much as I want her to have the best life possible, there’s just no way I can stay this cool forever.
But my intentions are good. I want her to have everything she wants in life, but I want her to understand she has to work for them. I don’t want to just hand her everything and expect that she’ll know how to react when things get tough as an adult. Toki Tori 2+ may just be a game today, but in the long run, it could be so much more.
I probably learn more about myself from Reese than she ever learns from me, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Every day she helps me see something more clearly or understand a little part of myself a little better. But she WILL play all the way through Toki Tori 2+, and we’ll have fun doing it. I just hope she doesn’t give me those dang puppy dog eyes again…